Cal recalls 'surreal, magical' Game 2,131

September 6th, 2020

As MLB celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Iron Man streak, joined the Orioles broadcast Sunday to reflect on playing his record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game on Sept. 6, 1995.

"It's a wonderful memory," Ripken said on his Zoom interview with MASN during the second inning of the O's 5-1 win against the Yankees at Camden Yards. "I've never been one really to think about what's happened in the past. But when you get to a certain stage of your life, you look back fondly on many things you were able to accomplish -- and 2,131 is almost one of those surreal, magical things that you wonder, 'Did that really happen?'"

Ripken said that watching the game 25 years later, one of the things that stood out the most was seeing himself share the moment with his father, longtime Orioles manager and coach Cal Sr., who passed away in 1999. 

"One of the great joys I had was it brought my dad back to life," Ripken said. "I had the chance to see him on video and pointing down to me, and I remember that experience, sharing about 1,000 words back and forth in maybe about two seconds."

Ripken said his Iron Man streak was, in a way, just him living up to Cal Sr.'s example. 

"He was a doer. You couldn't keep him out of the lineup. That was something I had to live up to: the meaning of the game, the importance of being in the game, and getting through some of those nagging injuries," Ripken said. "You find out who you are, and I had a good basis on which to go out there and play the game. Dad's definition of an everyday player was literally every day. There was no taking a day off."

Ripken remembered the criticism he sometimes faced during the streak that playing every day wasn't best for the team.

"I always thought it was right to come to the ballpark ready to play. And if the manager chose me to play, then I played,” Ripken said. "I didn't tell Earl Weaver to play me, I didn't tell Frank Robinson he had to play me ... I always fell back on, when I came to the ballpark, I thought it was the right approach. And I was stubborn that way."

Ripken and Orioles broadcaster Ben McDonald -- his teammate on the 1995 Orioles when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's record -- had a funny exchange about Ripken's homer in Game 2,131. Ripken homered off the Angels' Shawn Boskie on a 3-0 count, a moment McDonald recorded on a large 1990s-era camcorder he'd brought to the history-making game.

"Ben, can you give everyone the perspective -- because sometimes people will say that Shawn Boskie grooved me a 3-0 pitch so I could hit a homer, or somebody would say that Chan Ho Park in the last All-Star Game, in the shadows at 95-plus, grooved me a ball on the first home run? Can you tell everybody that doesn't occur?" Ripken said.

McDonald confirmed that Boskie did not groove Ripken the pitch, noting the catcher set up on the outside part of the plate and the pitch ran back over the middle. 

"He made a mistake and left it out over the middle, so you hammered it and were all over it, which was a really cool thing," McDonald told Ripken.

After Ripken finally passed Gehrig by playing in game No. 2,131, he said, the hardest part might have been the speech. 

"I wanted to make a couple of good statements that it was a moment to bring tribute and honor to the game of baseball, and honor to Lou Gehrig," Ripken said. "I think I did that pretty well, but it's not something you get trained to do every day."